Caroline Rose (photo by Kayl Cooper)
New West Records
Long Island's Caroline Rose has always looked to fresh starts as an incentive. Early on, as a folk and country-inspired singer-songwriter, she self-released her 2012 debut album, America Religious, followed by 2014’s I Will Not Be Afraid. Neither release had much of an impact for Rose and she re-examined her own music in a dramatic way.
Her third album, 2018's Loner, reflected her revised approach and revealed a new side to her music, one that was based on heavy doses of alternative pop, rock, and a sharp sense of humor. Loner was an artistic and commercial success, providing Rose with a breakthrough album, which she discusssed in an FUV Live session. (She also topped our Listener Poll for 2018 as artist discovery of the year.)
Superstar, her new album, is a concept album about the pursuit of a star-studded life of a celebrity. It's also a self-examination of Rose's own personal and professional goals; an observation of a quest for success. As she told NPR, that curiosity helped develop the character who guides this latest album, an amalgamation of fiction, observation, and the "darker sides" of Rose herself.
While contemplating the inspiration for this new album, Rose said in a press release: “I realized at some point that I’m not going to fit into any one box, and maybe that’s a good thing. This new record is me embracing feeling like an outsider making my own path.”
A lofty goal is written in the stars. The scene is set in the track “Nothing’s Impossible," with a far-reaching declaration of intent. “No one is gonna stand in my way," sings Rose, "Even if I have to leave this whole city in flames.”
In the breezy “Got To Go My Own Way,” Rose declares that she was "born to be a star.” Setting her sights high — and with humor — she sings: “I’m moving to L.A./I’ll weekend in Paris/I’m gonna bask in fame/Fiji in a banana hammock/Remain humble, not like all these fakers /Always get bleacher seats sitting at the L.A. Lakers.”
The spirited pop song “Feel The Way I Want” displays a determination to stay on track, no matter what obstacles may emerge. A failed relationship makes an appearance in the vengeful “Someone New,” which could be the inevitable outcome to “Do You Think We’ll Last Forever?," a sultry R&B groovefest which owes a definite debt to Prince.
Superstar is rich with layers upon layers of keyboards and synths, as in the song “I Took A Ride.” Plenty of cascading beats throb throughout the album, but there are also a handful of slower moments. Rose's affection for pop is clear, especially when she zeroes in on her influences.
Rose wrote, arranged, recorded and produced Superstar, and also handled keyboards, guitar, bass, percussion, drum programming, and even some flute and ukulele. The lion’s share of the album was recorded in Austin, Texas, with some parts laid down while on the road.
Rose's bright talent clearly comes through on Superstar, an album that allows her to keep up the momentum she kicked off with Loner. Although Superstar's conceptual direction meanders a little towards the end, Rose’s lyrical wit and personality always gets things back on track. And most importantly, there's an abundance of positivity throughout this album — something that is badly needed these days.